Kentucky Moves to Drop Requirements That Put Voters in Harm’s Way During COVID-19 Pandemic
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Kentucky has taken action to drop several requirements that would have put the state’s voters at dire and unnecessary risk in order to cast a ballot in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The action follows a federal lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Kentucky, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and Covington & Burling. The groups had challenged Kentucky’s failure to take appropriate action to ensure voters could safely cast a ballot in the November general election.
Among the requirements that were challenged — and subsequently eliminated in a vote by the state Board of Elections today and awaiting final expected signoff from the governor and secretary of state — were an onerous photo ID requirement that would have increased Kentuckians’ risk of exposure to COVID-19 by forcing them to visit ID-issuing offices to exercise their right to vote, and a requirement that voters qualify for one from a narrow list of excuses to vote by mail before there is a COVID-19 vaccine.
Forcing them to do so would have meant the vast majority of voters would have had to physically go to their polling places, threatening both public safety and the health of individual voters.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Kentucky, the Louisville Urban League, the Kentucky State Conference of the NAACP, and several individuals.
The following reactions are from:
Corey Shapiro, legal director at the ACLU of Kentucky: “Today we celebrate a great victory for voting rights and public health in Kentucky. The agreement reached by the governor and secretary of state and the regulations adopted by the Board of Elections ensure that no Kentucky voter will be forced to choose between their health and their vote this November. We hope this spirit of collaboration, with the rights and safety of every voter as a guiding star, continues as part of the broader discussion of how we protect and expand the freedom to vote”
Ceridwen Cherry, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project: “We said all along that Kentuckians should not be forced to choose between their health and their vote. Now they won’t have to.”
Sadiqa Reynolds, president and CEO of the Louisville Urban League: “The new rules issued today are a win for Kentucky voters who now have multiple, safe ways to cast their votes in this historic election. We are pleased that this distraction has been removed, and we can focus on full electoral participation. The League will continue to educate our clients, community and community partners about the deadlines and procedures for casting their ballots. People have died for our right to vote and it is good to know that in 2020 no voter has to risk their life to cast their vote. We celebrate this bipartisan agreement and continue to count on our elected officials to ensure that every ballot, from every voter, is counted.”
Raoul Cunningham, president, Louisville Branch NAACP and member of the national board of directors: “We joined this lawsuit because we knew Kentuckians shouldn’t have to risk their health to obtain a photo ID or be forced to cast their ballot in person during this pandemic. We are relieved an agreement has been reached that strikes the right balance between health and safety and our sacred right to vote. We look forward to informing voters about the new guidelines and procedures.”
Fran Wagner, president of the League of Women Voters of Kentucky: “This agreement will save lives by allowing Kentuckians to vote safely in the midst of the current pandemic by using COVID-19 as an excuse to vote absentee. In addition, those without a photo ID will be able to vote by stipulating that the coronavirus prevented them from obtaining one.”
Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law: “Today is a win for the voting rights of Kentuckians. Thanks to our litigation and advocacy efforts, the Board of Elections adopted a set of emergency rules today that will allow Kentuckians to safely exercise their right to vote in November. We must not forget that we are in a pandemic that is disproportionately impacting Black and brown communities. Kentucky’s newly expanded voting options will remove some of the most onerous burdens on these communities. But our work continues. Our organizations will remain steadfast in our efforts to ensure that elections officials carry out the election in a safe and secure manner.”
The lawsuit, Collins v. Adams, was filed in U.S. District Court in the Western District of Kentucky.
Case details: https://www.aclu.org/cases/collins-v-adams
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